Top 34 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel January 15, 2020 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. That can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 20202019ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFGALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Cardinals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Nolan Gorman 19.7 A+ 3B 2021 55 2 Dylan Carlson 21.2 AAA LF 2020 55 3 Matthew Liberatore 20.2 A LHP 2022 50 4 Ivan Herrera 19.6 AA C 2023 50 5 Zack Thompson 22.2 A+ LHP 2022 45+ 6 Andrew Knizner 24.9 MLB C 2020 45 7 Genesis Cabrera 23.3 MLB LHP 2020 45 8 Lane Thomas 24.4 MLB CF 2020 40+ 9 Jhon Torres 19.8 A RF 2023 40+ 10 Trejyn Fletcher 18.7 R CF 2024 40+ 11 Junior Fernandez 22.9 MLB RHP 2020 40+ 12 Johan Oviedo 21.9 AA RHP 2022 40+ 13 Edmundo Sosa 23.9 MLB SS 2020 40 14 Elehuris Montero 21.4 AA 3B 2021 40 15 Kodi Whitley 24.9 AAA RHP 2020 40 16 Tony Locey 21.5 A RHP 2023 40 17 Luken Baker 22.8 A+ 1B 2021 40 18 Jake Woodford 23.2 AAA RHP 2020 40 19 Juan Yepez 21.9 AA 1B 2021 40 20 Ramon Urias 25.6 AAA 2B 2019 40 21 Mateo Gil 19.5 A+ SS 2023 40 22 Roel Ramirez 24.6 AAA RHP 2020 40 23 Malcom Nunez 18.8 A 1B 2024 40 24 Seth Elledge 23.6 AAA RHP 2019 40 25 Patrick Romeri 18.5 R RF 2023 35+ 26 Andre Pallante 21.3 A- RHP 2023 35+ 27 Adanson Cruz 19.3 R RF 2023 35+ 28 Steven Gingery 22.3 R LHP 2020 35+ 29 Jesus Cruz 24.7 AAA RHP 2020 35+ 30 Justin Williams 24.4 MLB LF 2019 35+ 31 Griffin Roberts 23.6 A+ RHP 2019 35+ 32 Connor Jones 25.3 AAA RHP 2019 35+ 33 Edgardo Rodriguez 19.1 R C 2023 35+ 34 Rodard Avelino 20.6 A RHP 2024 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 55 FV Prospects 1. Nolan Gorman, 3B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from O’Connor HS (AZ) (STL) Age 19.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 65/70 25/60 40/40 40/45 50/50 By torching the Appy League during his first pro summer, Gorman laid to rest any concerns that his whiff-prone pre-draft spring was anything more than a hiccup caused by the whiplash of going from facing elite, showcase high schoolers (who he crushed) to soft-tossing, Arizona varsity pitchers. He struck out a lot (again) during the 2018 stretch run, when St. Louis pushed him to Low-A Peoria because he wasn’t being challenged in Johnson City. Sent back to Peoria for the first half of 2019, Gorman adjusted to full-season pitching and roasted the Midwest League to the tune of a .241/.344/.448 line, cutting his strikeout rate by eight percentage points. He was promoted to the Florida State League for the second half, and while his walk rate halved and his strikeout rate crept above 30% again, Gorman still managed to post an above-average line for that league as a 19-year-old. The strikeout issues will only become a real concern once Gorman stops showing an ability to adjust over a long period of time. His huge power, derived from his imposing physicality and explosive hand speed, is likely to play in games because of the lift in Gorman’s swing and his feel for impacting the ball in the air. Because we’re talking about a teenager of considerable size, there’s a chance Gorman has to move off of third base at some point, but for now we’re cautiously optimistic about him staying there for the early part of his big league tenure. There are apt body comps to be made to either of the Seager brothers, while the offensive profile looks more like Miguel Sanó‘s. 2. Dylan Carlson, LF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Elk Grove HS (CA) (STL) Age 21.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr S / L FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 50/55 40/55 50/40 50/55 40/40 A year ago, on the Cardinals list and in our Picks to Click article, we tabbed Carlson as one of the prospects in this org likely to break out. But even we didn’t expect he’d nearly go 20/20 and slug .518 at Double-A Springfield. Judging by the fervor this performance created among our more fantasy-focused readers, they may be wondering why we were ahead of the curve a year ago, but aren’t hitting the gas on Carlson’s evaluation now after the year he had. We certainly like him — Carlson is balanced and coordinated while hitting from both sides of the plate, his left-handed swing has gorgeous lift and finish, he has advanced bat control for a switch-hitter this age, he’s athletic and moves well for his size, and he has high-end makeup. But we have some questions about the ultimate ceiling. Carlson is an average runner and a large dude for a 20-year-old. His instincts in center field are okay, but not good enough to overcome long speed that typically falls short at the position. Because of where we have his arm strength graded, we think he fits in left field or at first base. The TrackMan data we sourced also indicates that his 2019 line is a bit of a caricature. His average exit velo (about 88 mph) and rate of balls in play at 95 mph or higher (about 34%) are both right around the big league average, rather than exceptional. The in-office types we talk to about this kind of thing are in love with Carlson because he’s only 20, and they anticipate these things will improve, but visual evaluation of his build don’t suggest as much physical projection as is typical of someone this young, because he’s already a big guy. As a result, he was on the 50/55 FV line for us during the process of compiling this list. The league-average offensive production in left field has been lower than you might expect (it’s 100 wRC+ over the last five years) and Carlson might also be able to play a situational center field when the Cards are behind and need offense, as well as some first base. That versatility is valuable, so he tipped into the 55 FV range. But we think he’s closer to the line than one might conclude if they were just looking at his surface stats. 50 FV Prospects 3. Matthew Liberatore, LHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Mountain Ridge HS (AZ) (TBR) Age 20.2 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/55 60/65 50/55 40/55 92-95 / 97 With January’s trade with Tampa Bay, the Cardinals rolled some of their seemingly unending, upper-level outfield depth into Libby, That means that between him and childhood friend Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals, who picked 19th in the 2018 draft, now have two of the players most teams had in the top five to seven spots on their pre-draft boards in the system. Because Liberatore’s fastball has sinker movement, the growth of his changeup is going to be the most important aspect of his development, since those two pitches have similar movement, and will theoretically tunnel better. The results produced by his knockout curveball, which has all-world depth, may suffer because he doesn’t have an up-in-the-zone four-seamer to pair with it, but should Liberatore decide to get ahead of hitters by dumping that curveball into the zone, good luck to them. It’s the type of pitch that’s hard to hit even if you know it’s coming, but might be easy to lay off of, in the dirt, because its Loch Ness Monster hump is easy to identify out of the hand. All of the advanced pitchability stuff — Libby started learning a slider during his senior year of high school, he varies his timing home, and he’s likely to pitch backwards with the breaking balls — is here, too, and that’ll be important given the lack of a bat-missing fastball. The total package should result in an above-average big league starter. 4. Ivan Herrera, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Panama (STL) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 50/55 25/40 30/30 45/55 50/50 When we began sourcing data on the Cardinals system, we weren’t aware of a max exit velocity for a teenager in excess of 109 mph (Kristian Robinson, Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio) — until we learned of Herrera’s. It was surprising considering Herrera is physically quite modest, and looked sluggish at times during the Fall league, but by that point he had played in three times as many games as he had the year before, and was likely exhausted. Regular season Herrera was a little leaner, twitchy, and athletic, and was an advanced defender with a mature approach at the plate. He also hit .286/.381/.423 as a 19-year-old catcher in the Midwest League. This guy checks all the proverbial boxes and looks like a well-rounded everyday catching prospect. 45+ FV Prospects 5. Zack Thompson, LHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Kentucky (STL) Age 22.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr S / L FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 45/50 60/65 45/55 45/50 91-94 / 97 Arguably the most talented college arm in the 2019 draft, Thompson fell, at least in part, because of injury issues speckled throughout his amateur career. He was used pretty conservatively in a bullpen role after he signed for workload/health reasons, but expect the Cardinals to push him to the upper levels next year, as they often do with recently-drafted college arms. The headline pitch here is the curveball, a deadly, mid-70s parabola much like Liberatore’s. Like Libby, Thompson’s fastball traits don’t fit perfectly with it and it probably won’t matter very much. The changeup is already quite good, a likely second out-pitch. Thompson gets down the mound well, his arm action is loose (though it comes through a little late), and he has east/west command of all his stuff. He’s a concerning injury risk, but has top 100 stuff. 45 FV Prospects 6. Andrew Knizner, C Video Drafted: 7th Round, 2016 from North Carolina State (STL) Age 24.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 50/50 35/40 30/30 35/40 45/45 Knizner’s 2019 was a great example of how the convergence of the PCL’s hitting environment and lively big league baseball affected statistics at that level. His .276/.357/.463 line was only good enough for a 99 wRC+, the lowest of his career. Long a contact-oriented doubles hitter with a very compact stroke, Knizner is perhaps not the sort of hitter who would have greatly benefitted from a bouncier ball. He’s still a much better hitter than most big league catchers, but he’s a bad receiver. For the last two years, we were hopeful Knizner would become a passable defender, if later than most, because he only started catching in his early 20s, but it still hasn’t happened. He and Yadier Molina are the only two catchers currently on the Cardinals’ 40-man, so it looks like he’s slated for some kind of timeshare, at least for his rookie season, the last of Yadi’s contract. His value may be impacted by the implementation of robot umps, which would make Knizner poor receiving moot, but would also put more pressure on him to hit for some power since suddenly every gloveless backstop who can hit will suddenly be viable back there. Knizner’s bat-to-ball skills should make him a second-division regular in that scenario. 7. Genesis Cabrera, LHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (TBR) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/50 50/55 45/45 93-97 / 99 We’ve gone from thinking Cabrera was a high-probability middle relief piece with a shot at pitching high-leverage or multiple innings, to thinking either of those outcomes is likely, and that he has a shot at pitching in St. Louis’ rotation. He has premium lefty velocity, and two usable secondaries. In a vacuum, we prefer Cabrera’s changeup to his breaking ball, but his delivery is violent and deceptive, featuring a huge hook in the back (the flexibility in Cabrera’s upper back is incredible) and a huge stride home before the ball suddenly appears from a high three-quarters slot. 40+ FV Prospects 8. Lane Thomas, CF Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Bearden HS (TN) (TOR) Age 24.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 50/50 40/45 55/55 60/60 55/55 In 2017, the Cardinals traded away some of their international pool space for minor leaguers, including Thomas, who had a breakout 2018 at the plate. A high school shortstop, Thomas got a $750,000 bonus to sign with Toronto as a fifth rounder in 2014. He played some second and third base and outfield for the Jays before moving off the dirt entirely in 2017, and he’s quickly become a very good center field defender. He couldn’t quite repeat that 2018 burst — a .264/.333/.489 line between Double and Triple-A, including more home runs (27) than in his previous four seasons combined — in a 2019 shortened by a fractured wrist, but Thomas has good plate coverage that enables a pull-heavy approach, has mostly doubles power, and is fairly selective, and because he’s such a good center field defender, we think he’s a second-division regular there. 9. Jhon Torres, RF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (CLE) Age 19.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 55/65 30/60 50/40 40/50 60/60 After Torres, who was acquired from Cleveland for Oscar Mercado during the summer of 2018, paved over rookie ball, the Cardinals skipped him over two levels, sending him right from the complex to Low-A in early-May. He struggled, striking out nearly 40% of the time, and after a couple of weeks the Cards hit the breaks and sent him down to Johnson City for the remainder of the summer. Torres bounced back in a huge way, and hit .286/.391/.527 in the Tennessee humidity. This is a traditional, corner outfield projection prospect. Torres is an immense teenager built much like Franmil Reyes was at the same age. Torres has a chance to grow into similar power as he fills out, though hopefully he stays a little more agile than Reyes and is able to play better outfield defense. Some of the swing elements (how long the barrel is in the zone, the stride length) may need to change to max out the game power, but there’s middle-of-the-order thump here. 10. Trejyn Fletcher, CF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Deering HS (ME) (STL) Age 18.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 50/55 25/50 60/55 40/50 55/55 Fletcher emerged very early in the recruiting/scouting process as an elite prospect due to a power/speed combination that is rare, especially coming from Maine. He played at East Coast Pro, a major summer showcase, as an older-for-the-class member of the 2020 class, playing against 2019 prospects. He played well and reclassified to the 2019 class in March of that year after switching high schools. Clubs weren’t prepared and hadn’t scouted Fletcher intensely, with only a few months of rain-filled Maine high school games versus weak competition to make what was potentially a seven figure decision. Between having Scott Boras as his agent, a strong commitment to Vanderbilt, and the off-field drama surrounding his eligibility, some teams punted on Fletcher because they couldn’t get enough info to be comfortable by draft day. The Cardinals were not one of those teams, but both they and more casually-engaged clubs saw flashes of plus raw power, speed, and arm strength. St. Louis popped him in the second round for an overslot $1.5 million deal and pushed him to the Appy League after nine good GCL games to get him under the lights and in a more professional game atmosphere, where Fletcher struggled a bit. The ceiling is sky high but we don’t have much reliable data, so the variance is very high at this point, too. 11. Junior Fernandez, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 22.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 40/45 55/60 40/45 95-97 / 99 Finally, a healthy season for Fernandez, who pitched across four levels, including the big leagues, in 2019. He has two big league bat-missers in his upper-90s fastball and upper-80s changeup. The changeup doesn’t even need to be located toward the bottom of the zone to be effective since hitters, who are geared up for the heater, are so flummoxed by its speed and movement. You’ll see him freeze hitters with cambios near the top of the zone, and the pitch might be so dominant that Fernandez will be able to pitch high-leverage innings. 12. Johan Oviedo, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (STL) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/50 50/55 45/55 30/40 91-95 / 97 Oviedo looks the part of a mid-rotation starter. He’s a hulking 6-foot-6, body comps to a young Josh Beckett, throws hard, and flashes an above-average curveball and changeup. All of these components are present intermittently, but Oviedo just hasn’t leveled up as a strike-thrower yet. Unless his walk rates come down a little bit, he won’t be able to start. If he can’t, we’re hoping his fastball velo ticks up out of the bullpen so he has greater margin for error in the zone. We have him valued around where we had Alec Hansen valued coming out of college. 40 FV Prospects 13. Edmundo Sosa, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Panama (STL) Age 23.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 45/45 30/35 50/50 55/55 50/50 He doesn’t have Kolten Wong’s range, but in all other aspects of infield defense — hands, actions, arm utility — Sosa is the best defender on St. Louis’ 40-man. He projects as a versatile infield utility man. 14. Elehuris Montero, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 21.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 55/60 35/50 40/40 40/45 55/55 Multiple wrist injuries made it impossible for Montero’s 2019 to get off the ground, so toss out his lousy 60-game Double-A statline. His body looked great in the Fall League, and he still has a shot to stay at third base long-term because he’s kept what used to be a big, softer body in check. His approach, however, is a problem. During some of his Fall League starts, Montero saw five pitches over the course of an entire game. During the regular season, he averaged just shy of 2.5 pitches per plate appearance. For comparison’s sake, among big league hitters with at least 200 PAs in 2019, Willians Astudillo ranked last in pitchers per PA with 2.9; no other big leaguer was under three. From a hitting talent perspective — the bat speed, primarily — Montero has everyday upside, so he belongs ranked ahead of prospects who project to be lesser role players at best. But we’re weary of how swing-happy he is and think, at the very least, there will be growing pains as he climbs the minors and is forced to adjust to big league pitching. 15. Kodi Whitley, RHP Drafted: 27th Round, 2017 from Mount Olive (STL) Age 24.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 45/50 45/50 93-96 / 98 Whitley and his Josh Collmenter-style delivery carved the upper levels in 2019, posting a 1.60 ERA mostly at Double- and Triple-A. He had a velocity uptick during the summer (93-96, touch 98) but it was down a bit during Whitley’s Fall League stint (more 92-93, touch 94 or 95). He lives at the top of the strike zone and gets his swings and misses there, while his secondary stuff gets help from his delivery, which puzzles opposing hitters. He has worked multiple innings, working against seven hitters over two frames when things go smoothly for him, but for now, we have him projected as being a good middle relief piece very soon, and maybe more if that peak velo comes back and sticks. 16. Tony Locey, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Georgia (STL) Age 21.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Locey had a rocky end of high school and beginning of college at Georgia, but emerged in a big way in 2019 as the most dependable starter for the Bulldogs down the stretch, ahead of banged-up possible 2020 first overall pick Emerson Hancock. Locey would hold mid-90s velo late into games, hitting 97 regularly and landing a solid average breaking ball that dev-minded folks in baseball think has more ceiling. His control is fine, but the command and changeup were both weaker points in a starting role, so relief is a natural fit without a change to that profile. His aggressive, bulldog approach is also conducive to shorter stints. 17. Luken Baker, 1B Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from TCU (STL) Age 22.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 265 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 70/70 35/60 30/20 40/45 60/60 Baker’s amateur career was bedeviled by freak injuries — a left arm fracture and ligament and muscle tear, a few missed games after taking a bad hop to the face, a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligament while sliding into second base — which likely snuffed out our chances of watching him play two ways at TCU. Because Baker is the size of one of the Easter Island Moai statues, there’s some Zion Williamson-ish fear about his athletic longevity. But he has monstrous raw power and has performed when healthy (we’re not sweating a .390 SLG in the Florida State League), so he has a fair chance to hit at least enough to be a CJ Cron, Jesús Aguilar sort of performer. 18. Jake Woodford, RHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Plant HS (FL) (STL) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 50/50 50/50 45/45 50/50 45/50 40/45 90-94 / 96 Woodford was a widely-known prep prospect because he was teammates with Kyle Tucker at Plant. He was a sandwich rounder who fell off our lists as his fastball velocity ticked down (91-93, touch 95 around draft time, then 88-92 in the following few years) but has returned here (and to the 40-man) now that the velo’s not only back, but at times harder than its ever been. He’s a kitchen sink righty with below average control, a backend starter who needs a long relief partner. 19. Juan Yepez, 1B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 60/60 40/50 40/40 45/50 55/55 Traded from Atlanta in exchange for Matt Adams, Yepez was a heavy-bodied, power-hitting prospect who’s passable at a few positions. His best fit is probably first base, but with a remade body, he also saw meaningful time at all four corners last year, which helps his likely big league profile of a lefty-mashing extra bat. Yepez’s calling card is his plus raw power, but he’s been dialing in his offensive approach to make more contact. He’s one of a number of corner-only righty power bats in the system with Baker, Montero, and Nunez. 20. Ramon Urias, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Mexico (TEX) Age 25.6 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/55 45/45 35/35 40/40 45/45 40/40 This is the player in the system about whom the scouts and data most disagree. Scouts see an unathletic infielder, arguably positionless, without the power to make up for his defensive issues. But on paper, Urias has a .270/.360/.420 career line in the minors — after two DSL seasons with Texas, Urias’ rights were loaned and then sold outright to Diablos Rojos in Mexico City, where he hit .318/.402/.467 over five seasons before the Cardinals came calling in the spring of 2018 — and he’s hit well for two consecutive years at Double and Triple-A. His TrackMan data is strong (91 mph average exit velo, 47% of balls in play at 95 mph or more), and he plays an up-the-middle position. He’s an interesting sleeper, though we acknowledge there’s no margin for error here. Urias can only really play second base passably as he lacks the arm strength for the left side. He’ll either hit enough to be an everyday second baseman, or he won’t and will be very difficult to roster. 21. Mateo Gil, SS Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Timber Creek HS (TX) (STL) Age 19.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Mateo is the son of former big league infielder Benji Gil and, despite not being on the showcase circuit much in high school, looks primed to carve out a big league career as well. He’s a shortstop for now, but could slide over to second or third depending on how his body develops. He closed 2019 strong and his exit velos were also above average for his age and level. There may not be a plus tool on the card, but Gil has low-end regular upside. 22. Roel Ramirez, RHP Drafted: 8th Round, 2013 from United South HS (TX) (TBR) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Splitter Cutter Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/50 55/55 50/55 40/40 92-96 / 97 Initially a bit of an afterthought (in our minds, anyway) in the Tommy Pham trade with Tampa Bay, Ramirez had a great 2019 as a multi-inning reliever at Double-A Springfield. He has the repertoire depth to pitch in that role in the big leagues, but his fastball has cut action rather than ride/carry, so it accidentally runs into barrels. That might be problematic, but on arm strength and the pitch mix, he’s pretty clearly a valuable long relief type. 23. Malcom Nunez, 1B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Cuba (STL) Age 18.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 55/60 20/55 30/20 30/45 55/55 Nunez became famous back in 2018 when he posted a god-like .415/.497/.774 line with 31 extra-base hits in 44 DSL games. He was bigger and stronger than most of the kids down there, so the industry was ultra-skeptical of that line. After a little time in Florida, two months after he turned 18, St. Louis sent him to Low-A to stress test the bat. Nunez flopped and was demoted to the Appy League later in the summer. He’s a big-bodied, projectionless, 1B/DH prospect who needs to mash all the way up the ladder. 24. Seth Elledge, RHP Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Dallas Baptist (SEA) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/55 40/45 91-94 / 96 A fourth round pick by Seattle in 2017, Elledge was traded to the Cardinals for Sam Tuivailala just over a year after he was drafted. He profiles as a two-pitch middle reliever. 35+ FV Prospects 25. Patrick Romeri, RF Drafted: 12th Round, 2019 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (STL) Age 18.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Romeri was a slightly-over-slot 12th round pick in 2019 from a loaded IMG Academy prep squad that included Brennan Malone (first round), and Rece Hinds and Kendall Williams (both second round). Romeri was so below the radar on that team that many scouts didn’t have him turned in despite watching him numerous times on what was likely the most-scouted high school team in the country. The seventh hole hitter on a high school team is not usually where you find a prospect; He wasn’t on our pre-draft rankings either. Romeri is a solid average runner and thrower who profiles in right field, and his exit velos and OPS both stood out in his pro debut in the GCL. There’s a faint chance for a low-end regular but he’ll more likely profile as a part-time player. 26. Andre Pallante, RHP Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from UC Irvine (STL) Age 21.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 203 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 50/55 50/50 40/45 45/55 90-93 / 95 Pallante was young for a college draftee (just 20 on draft day), and had a strong, two-year track record of starting at Irvine. He threw on the Cape and for Team USA, so he’d been seen by most everyone and wasn’t subject to the anti-small school bias. He has four pitches, including two quality breaking balls and a fastball that might play a little better than its velocity. He has a backend shot. 27. Adanson Cruz, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 19.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ A $300,000 signee from 2017, Cruz has a traditional corner outfield profile. He has a projectable 6-foot-3 frame and a swing geared to lift the ball to his pull side. He could grow into plus, playable power; he’s likely a left field-only fit, so he’ll need to. He missed almost all of 2019 due to injury. 28. Steven Gingery, LHP Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Texas Tech (STL) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 45/50 55/60 45/55 88-93 / 94 Gingery had Tommy John in March of 2018 before he was drafted, and finally took a pro mound in late-July of last year. He was 87-91, up to 92 in his lone outing before he blew out again and required a second TJ. Healthy Gingery had a nasty changeup and advanced command. He projected as a backend starter. 29. Jesus Cruz, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (STL) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 50/50 30/35 94-96 / 98 When the Cardinals signed Cruz, he was 21 and pitching for Sultanes de Monterrey in Mexico. He’s serviceable, non-40-man upper-level depth for now. His current control is likely a barrier to a solid, middle inning relief role, but Cruz has real stuff and we like him in an up-and-down role. 30. Justin Williams, LF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Terrebonne HS (LA) (ARI) Age 24.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 60/60 40/50 40/40 50/50 50/50 A downward bat path long undercut Williams’ in-game power despite his considerable raw juice. He had the second-highest average exit velo in this system and the lowest average launch angle, and this with a swing that’s better than it was two years ago. He has a shot to break out if there’s a relevant swing change; if not, a bench role is going to be tough to grab hold of because of the lack of other skills. 31. Griffin Roberts, RHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Wake Forest (STL) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 55/60 40/45 45/50 90-93 / 95 Roberts had one of the best breaking balls in the entire 2018 class, a two-plane Wiffle ball slider that was at least a plus pitch on draft day. But his stuff was down last year amid a weed suspension, and he’s already almost 24. What looked like a lock to be a quick-moving, breaking ball-heavy reliever now requires a bounce back. 32. Connor Jones, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Virginia (STL) Age 25.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 50/50 35/40 92-95 / 97 Jones had a storied if somewhat tumultuous amateur career (he was an early-round prospect in high school but, like many after him, was convinced to go to UVA) that included a National Title and several fluctuations in the quality of his stuff. He’s now a sinkerball reliever (63% groundball rate). 33. Edgardo Rodriguez, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (TBR) Age 19.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 207 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Part of the Liberatore/Arozarena/José Martínez trade, Rodriguez was injured for almost all of 2019, so his report is the same as it was when he appeared on last year’s Rays list. It’s not abundantly clear whether Rodriguez will be able to catch as, at age 18, he’s already a pretty big, long-levered kid who was initially unsure if he even wanted to try it. But Rodriguez can really hit. He has excellent timing, bat control, and feel for all-fields contact, and he can open up and get his barrel on pitches inside. He might end up at first base or in an outfield corner, but he might hit enough to profile at those spots, and if he can catch, his ceiling is sizable. 34. Rodard Avelino, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 20.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 65/70 50/60 20/35 94-98 / 99 Avelino has no idea where most of his pitches are going (he has 99 walks in 51 career innings) but he has big time arm strength for his age (94-99) and several other fastball traits that could make the offering dominant — even elite — if he ever becomes an even passable strike-thrower. The chances of that seem low considering how badly Avelino has struggled with it to this point, but his stuff is just too good to stick him in the honorable mention section. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Catching Depth Julio Rodriguez, C Pedro Pages, C José Godoy, C Rodriguez, 22, has some power and arm strength, and aside from a bad 2018, he’s always performed. Pages is similar but faces an uphill climb as far as visual evaluations are concerned because he’s on the Alejandro Kirk spectrum. Godoy might get some big league time in 2019. He’s a contact-oriented lefty stick with well-rounded defensive ability. Young Arm Strength Fliers Luis Ortiz, RHP Logan Gragg, RHP Yordy Richard, RHP Alvaro Seijas, RHP Luis Tena, RHP Jeffry Abreu, RHP Nathanael Heredia, LHP Leonardo Taveras, RHP Tyler Statler, RHP Seijas and Taveras are the oldest names in this group (they’re 21). Seijas gets up to 97 and has a good changeup, but we also spoke with someone who saw him sit 90-92. He has relief projection if the velo can settle into the 94-plus area. Taveras has a live arm (up to 98), and he’s somewhat projectable at 6-foot-5. His mechanical inconsistency impacts his control and breaking ball quality. He also has relief ceiling. Ortiz, 19, is the most projectable of the group at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds. He’s up to 94 with lots of spin and some curveball feel. Gragg’s velo was up after he was the Card’s eighth rounder. He’s 92-94, touching 95, with a slider that could use some tweaking. Yordy Richard is only 17 and up to 94 with an advanced changeup. His frame is a little more stout. Tena’s is, too. He’s 20 and has been up to 96, though the secondaries are fringy. Abreu was acquired from the Dodgers for Jedd Gyorko. He has a low-90s fastball but the best curveball of this group. Heredia is 19, projectable, and up to 95; the delivery is a little less good than others here. Statler is purely a physical projection lottery ticket. He’s a very wiry 6-foot-6, up to 93 with a sinker. Various Kinds of UTM (Up The Middle) Bats Chandler Redmond, 2B Franklin Soto, SS Albert Inoa, 2B Nick Dunn, 2B Joerlin De Los Santos, CF Ramon Mendoza, 2B Redmond is a huge guy with huge power who is a Muncy/Shaw non-traditional second base fit. Soto, 20, has plus bat speed and a good build, but his in-the-box footwork is rough right now. Inoa, 18, is a contact-oriented second baseman with a medium build and some speed. Dunn also has contact skills, but he’s a 40 athlete who needs to perform, and he didn’t last year. Mendoza is similar but a few levels behind Dunn. De Los Santos lacks physical projection but is twitchy and athletic. Conversion Arms and Older Dudes Walker Robbins, LHP Ben Baird, RHP Edgar Escobar, RHP Evan Kruczynski, LHP Angel Rondon, RHP Mitchell Osnowitz, RHP Escobar is 23, and has a swing-and-miss heater up to 96 and an average slider. Kruczynski’s velo and command backed up last year but we liked him as a four-pitch fifth starter before that happened. Rondon is also an arm strength-only relief type. Osnowitz is 28 but might pitch in the big leagues. He’s up to 98 with other bat-missing fastball traits (backspin, mostly). Robbins and Baird were both 2015 Perfect Game All-Americans as position players who are moving to the mound. Robbins is up to 92 with some feel for spinning a curveball. Baird has more arm strength but his conversion is so new that all we know is he’s been into the mid-90s. System Overview This system is fine. There are a couple of potential impact talents up top, several young, high-variance players who could join them if things click (most of the 40+ tier), and pitching depth and depth up the middle, though you have to venture into the Others of Note to find the latter. There seems to be an org-wide taste for righty corner power bats, as all three departments have acquired at least one in the last few years. The pro department has had an impact even though the Cardinals perennially compete because the club has traded for younger prospects with the glut of upper-level outfielders they signed and developed well. The same stable vibe the big league team gives off is present in St. Louis’ talent acquisition track record.